The Hidden Hazard of Poultry Litter Pelletization

The following letter to the editor was submitted by the Center for a Livable Future to The Baltimore Sun following an article published in Sunday’s edition on Perdue’s efforts to recycle poultry litter. The article was also discussed in a blog post on B’MoreGreen yesterday.

We were disappointed to see that Timothy Wheeler left out any mention of an important environmental and human health consideration in his recent piece on the Perdue poultry manure pelletization plant (“Perdue manure recycling plant reduces nutrients in bay”).

According to estimates from Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., 88% of domestically produced broiler chickens are fed an arsenic-containing drug called roxarsone.  Some of the arsenic from this drug stays behind in the edible portions of the chicken, and the rest ends up in the poultry manure.

Numerous scientific and peer-reviewed research studies have measured heightened levels of arsenic in poultry manure, and research from the United States Geological Survey and other researchers has shown that the arsenic in poultry manure is rapidly converted into an inorganic form that is highly water soluble and capable of moving into surface and ground water.

Inorganic arsenic is recognized by the U.S. EPA as a carcinogen.  Earlier this year, the agency released a draft reassessment of arsenic toxicity, which indicates that the most recent evidence suggests that arsenic is 17 times more potent as a carcinogen than previously understood.  Arsenic exposures have also been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological deficits, and other health problems. Read More >